I have just finished reading the autobiography of Steve Jobs. Very interesting and it got me thinking.
The Steve Jobs mantra is that customers and users do not know what they want until you give it to them. Who of us knew we needed an iPad until we saw one and then purchased one.
Remember the famous Henry Ford quote of "If I asked my customers what they wanted they would have said 'a faster horse' "
There is also a school of thought that we need to develop user centred design so that we develop IT systems that users want and need.
Do these two schools of thought contradict each other?
I think not. The important thing in user centred design is to as soon as possible show users what an IT system will and could look like and get them to touch it, feel it and use it. They may ask for things to be added and changed. You can also add things that they didn't know they wanted and see if they do really want them and need them.
Using this approach will avoid the age old trap of users specifying lots of requirements and what they think they want in their heads and then IT going away and translating this into an IT system that misses the mark. Try getting five people to describe a car in words and then getting someone to build it from the words. You will get some interesting results.
User centred design and delivery will allow users to quickly be able to touch, feel and see stuff and then say "nah maybe not" or "wow that is good how about adding this". All before too much time and money is spent building stuff.
Humans like to see and touch and play with things.